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Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Polly Toynbee

Back into the Assembly today to clear up my correspondence. Still no sign of anything substantial on the new building site though there was a lot of activity. The milling area and the main entrance to Crickhowell House now closed off completely and workmen are fully engaged in redesigning it. The Guardian published my letter responding to Polly Toynbee's article on the Scarweather Wind farm from last Thursday. She was arguing that the development is necessary as part of the move towards renewables. She highlighted the role of the pro-nuclear lobby in opposing it and lamented the difficulties posed by the planning process to the introduction of wind turbines. She also criticised me directly in opposing my own party's policy by speaking out against Scarweather Sands. The whole drift of her article was that wind farms are good and that they should be allowed at any cost provided that they are built in Wales.

In response I argued that she had fallen into the trap that the battle to promote alternative energy is a black and white, them and us struggle. It is true that there are entrenched interests on both sides but she should remember that each development is a planning application in its own right and needs to be determined on its own merits. She must also know that party whips do not apply to planning applications and that in such cases policy forms one consideration amongst many in considering the merits and demerits of the application.

It is true, as she said, that my party supports wind power. It also supports Social Housing but I would not advocate building a Council estate on Scarweather Sands. I am on record as having voted for wind turbine developments as well as opposing them. Porthcawl is not North Hoyle. The 30 turbines that are proposed for this area will dominate the town and significantly damage the tourism industry there. Perhaps Polly Toynbee should come and see for herself rather than relying on the propaganda of bodies such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to dismiss very sound arguments against this particular proposal.

The fact is that United Utilities stands to make a lot of money out of Scarweather Sands. They came to the town to supposedly consult local people having already legally committed themselves to the site where the turbines would be. If they had been prepared to really listen and to sacrifice some of their profits in the interests of green power and located the wind farm further out to sea, as is proposed for future developments, then they would have seen objections dissipate. It is very easy to label objectors as NIMBYs and to associate them with undesirable groups but that sort of yah-boo politics does nothing to advance debate nor does it recognise that a particular application may actually have serious flaws.

I concluded by trying to picture the Scarweather Sands development being built on Hampstead Heath. Would Polly Toynbee label the middle class Guardian readers who would object to that proposal NIMBYs too? I think not.

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